Anabolic Hormones

How Do They Respond to a Bodybuilding Show?
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Phil Heath was once quoted in a FLEX article saying, “Anyone can look big in the off-season, the true challenge of a good bodybuilder is to come in shape without losing too much muscle size.” Researchers from the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance examined hormone, strength, and body-composition change in a bodybuilder over a 12-month period (a six-month period of competition preparation and a six-month period following competition). The aim of this study was to provide the most comprehensive physiological profile of bodybuilding competition preparation and recovery ever compiled.

The researchers recruited a young 27-year-old male, Caucasian, natural, professional bodybuilder who tracked his own diet and exercise training program throughout the study. He consumed five meals per day and spaced out his meals 4½ hours apart. As he got closer to his competition, he steadily reduced his fat and carb proportions, and by the end of the six-month block the breakdown was 46% protein, 29% carbs, and 25% fat. The bodybuilding competition training program was performed an average of four days per week for a total time of around five hours per week, in addition to two days of high-intensity interval training for a total of 40 minutes per week, and one day of low- intensity, steady-state, aerobic exercise for a total of 30 minutes per week. The only supplements the subject took were 5g per day of creatine and whey protein.

So here is what’s really scary: The researchers observed that the six-month competition period caused reductions in testosterone levels (i.e., reduced around 75% compared with baseline); increases in cortisol levels (almost a 100% increase compared with baseline); decreases in insulin levels; increases in ghrelin levels (i.e., hunger hormone); decreases in leptin levels; and reductions in The researchers observed that the six-month competition period caused reductions in testosterone levels (i.e., reduced around 75% compared with baseline); increases in cortisol levels (almost a 100% increase compared with baseline); decreases in insulin levels; increases in ghrelin levels (i.e., hunger hormone); decreases in leptin levels; and reductions in thyroid function (i.e., T3 and T4 levels). thyroid function (i.e., T3 and T4 levels). The subject lost lean muscle mass (87.65–84.84kg) and fat mass (8.9– 3.1%) and had major reductions in strength. All strength measures reduced in the six-month preparation period as follows: 1RM squat (by 13.8%), bench press (by 8.4%), and deadlif (by 7%).

What do all bodybuilders do as soon as a show’s over? They go right back to the gym and start training. Most bodybuilders should take time of from the gym, but the researchers found that hormone levels, except for ghrelin and leptin, returned to pre-preparation period baseline levels afer three months of recovery. This is one of the first long-term studies examining the hormonal changes that can occur in a bodybuilder. It was a single subject, but the changes in hormones are eye opening, nonetheless. - FLEX

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